Celebrated stand-up comedian Sebastian Maniscalco wanted to make a movie about his father and co-wrote the screenplay for About My Father, starring with legendary Italian-American two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro in a comedy about a man who is encouraged by his fiancée to bring his immigrant, hairdresser father to a weekend get-together with her super-rich and exceedingly eccentric family.
“The film is about two different families, from very different socioeconomic backgrounds, colliding during a holiday weekend, before they realize that those differences are what make them unique,” says Maniscalco, who adds that his onscreen persona “is trying to walk a tightrope with his father in bringing him into an environment that is unfamiliar to him. Sebastian’s character is carrying surprisingly little cultural baggage, and “is more open to different kinds of lifestyles and people,” Maniscalco notes. “But Salvo is set in his ways, so Sebastian is caught between these two worlds. My character’s goal is to navigate through those differences and somehow bring the two families together.”
Much of the story and characters were inspired by Maniscalco’s life. “It’s also a romantic comedy, a father-son story, and a love story,” states producer Andrew Miano. “Just like his character in the movie, Sebastian married a woman who’s from a different culture and wealth bracket.”
The comic and his writing partner, Austen Earl, recognized that his life — and the people in it – were the perfect inspiration to build a comedy feature. Earl remembers, “Sebastian and I have always traded ideas and stories about our very aggressive dads and how they would embarrass us. We connected on that and felt there was a great story to be told about a son who’s always mortified by his father but learns to love him and appreciate him again for everything dad’s done for him. We bonded on that, so it was a natural path to take on this film.”’
Sebastian’s longtime manager and producer on the project, Judi Marmel, encouraged him that there was a movie to be made based on his real-life story. Judi says, “We have a longtime relationship with Austen Earl in developing television projects. His comedic POV on life and family mirrors much of what Sebastian’s life is about which is why they make a great team.”
Maniscalco and Earl’s screenplay drew the attention of several Hollywood studios, and “the next thing you know,” Maniscalco recalls, “I’m in Mobile, Alabama, filming the movie!
The father-son generational clashes and bondings are intrinsic to About My Father.
Says Earl, “The film is a romantic comedy, but not just between a man and a woman, but between a man and his father. Sebastian’s character had grown up thinking this man is his hero, but as Sebastian got out into the world, he began to feel that his father was kind of embarrassing. As Sebastian continues to live his life, though, he realizes, holy crap, that guy is the reason I am the man I am today, and that realization rekindles his love for his father.”
Maniscalco concurs, adding, “Salvo has been instrumental in my career. He’s been supportive as my biggest fan – and critic. We’ve had this journey together, starting during my high school years, when we shared a passion for soccer. Then, once I became a stand-up [comedian], he jumped onto that. Salvo’s still vocal on what he likes and dislikes about my act. Now, he’s joined me on this journey with About My Father.”
Salvo quickly interjects, with a laugh, “I’m the consultant on the film. I was on set to make sure they were doing justice to me!”
Of course, with the casting of Robert De Niro as Salvo, the elder Maniscalco had nothing to worry about. De Niro and Sebastian Maniscalco had previously worked together on the acclaimed film The Irishman, and De Niro had attended Maniscalco’s sold-out appearance at Radio City Music Hall. Still, his joining About My Father was an out-of-body experience for the Maniscalcos. “Obviously, De Niro was my number one choice for the role of Salvo, and when we learned he was interested, we were like, ‘wow,’” remembers Sebastian.
When asked about the script, De Niro says, “I saw that it had a personal element from Sebastian’s experience, obviously. And, after getting to know Laura Terruso a little bit, I realized her background too. They [Sebastian and Laura] knew the world. They’re from the world. So that was an important part of it [the story],” says De Niro.
Early on, De Niro, famed for his immersion in his roles, requested a special read-through of the script with a group of fellow actors. “So, we flew to New York, during the height of the pandemic, and did a table read with him,” Maniscalco describes. “We were all wearing masks, and it was a little weird, but we were glad to do it.”
But De Niro’s painstaking research process was just getting started. He wanted to know everything about Salvo, especially his work as a hairstylist. “We had someone tape me working in my salon,” Salvo recalls. “I use my hands a lot when I speak – I really can’t talk without doing that; it’s part of my personality. So, De Niro watched the tape of me and my hands at work.”
Eager to learn even more about Salvo, De Niro stayed in touch with him throughout production. “He was constantly calling my dad,” Maniscalco continues. “Dad’s a hard worker and always has been, but I told him, jokingly, ‘I think we found somebody who works harder than you. I mean, the guy is relentless!”
Salvo even visited the set to teach De Niro how to do hair highlights, for a scene set in Salvo’s salon that resonated with both father and son. “He’s a real character. I was lucky to have him as a model,” says De Niro. According to Maniscalco, the production’s design team “really made it look like my dad’s salon. There were even pictures of a younger me on the wall. I took my dad aside and asked him, ‘Did you ever think we’d be in Mobile, Alabama with Robert De Niro playing you?!’”
“It was an amazing experience,” summarizes Earl, adding with a smile, “But I guess my main take away from it was that it was hard to tell who Sebastian was more intimidated by, his real dad or his movie dad. And I still don’t know the answer.”
It also seemed pre-destined for Laura Terruso to direct. The award-winning director, screenwriter and producer had completed a feature film for Netflix, Work It, when the script for About My Father came her way. Her reaction was immediate and unsubtle: “This script made me jump and say, ‘I must direct this movie’ because it felt so personal and universal.”
Terruso’s personal connection to the project comes from her background, which parallel’s Maniscalco’s in significant ways. As she explains, “Sebastian’s father emigrated from Sicily in the 1960s, as did my mother, and we’ve both found our way into comedy.”
“Sebastian wrote the movie as a love letter to his father, and for me, it was clearly a love letter to my Mother. We really bonded on that level and felt like, okay, we know who and what this is about and that guided all the decision making moving forward.”
The filmmakers hope to provide a feast of comedy, wild culture clashes, and even some heartfelt family warmth. Says Goldman, “It’s such a funny and warm-hearted story for audiences to experience in a theater. They’ll have some big laughs and, maybe, appreciate the differences between us all.”
Bibb echoes, “It’s the perfect time for a movie with some crazy laughs and a story about family. It’s wild and fun, and a good reminder to keep the ones we love close.”
Continuing this theme, Earl says, “Audiences can expect a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. I think I want people to leave the cinema feeling like they laughed a ton, but I also want them to feel like they should call that one parent who annoys them and tell them that they’re thinking of them.”
Producer Chris Weitz adds, “We hope that the audience goes away having had a good time and a bunch of laughs. Big comedies of this kind don’t get out there as much as they should, especially when they reaffirm values of family, love, and reaching across divides.”
Terruso enthuses, “It’s about family, class, and how everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing. It doesn’t matter who they are, or where they’re from; we all find our parents embarrassing. And we love them. There’s something so universal about this film and about that message, and I’m really excited to share it with audiences.”
Sebastian Maniscalco, who knows a thing or two about making people laugh, offers, “When I go to the movies, I want to have fun and a great time, sure, but I also enjoy it when a story gets my heart involved. My goal as a comedian, as a stand-up and actor, is for audiences to forget their lives for an hour and a half and laugh. So, that’s my hope for About My Father.”
“My father also wants people to leave the movie wondering who the hell trained Robert De Niro on how to do hair, number one. And, number two, my dad is a little bit of a mini-celebrity himself. So, hopefully after the movie, my father will be doing meet-and-greets at my show and signing autographs.”
Sebastian Maniscalco is the undisputed king of physical comedy, hailed by The New York Times as the “hottest comic in America.” During his latest tour, he conquered New York City by selling out Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, UBS Arena, and Prudential Center. With his two shows at Chicago’s United Center, Maniscalco is now the highest-grossing comedian in the venue’s three-decade history. This is just the latest in a string of record-breaking arena shows across the country that earned him the top spot on Pollstar’s Top Comedy Tours list.
Maniscalco’s success in comedy is only matched by his prowess on the silver screen. He’s currently starring alongside a star-studded cast in the animated feature film The Super Mario Bros. Movie,
portraying legendary producer Giorgio Moroder in the Neil Bogart biopic Spinning Gold, and
appearing in the dramedy Somewhere in Queens.
But Maniscalco isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He’s just wrapped up filming his new series,
“How To Be A Bookie,” co-produced by Maniscalco and legendary director, writer, and producer
Chuck Lorre for MAX.
Maniscalco’s success hasn’t come overnight. Over his 20-plus year career, he’s built a loyal fan
base through hard work, dedication, and one hilarious joke at a time. His six comedy specials, for
Netflix, Showtime, and Comedy Central, have been hugely popular, with his newest special,
Sebastian Maniscalco: Is it Me? filmed during his residency at the Wynn Las Vegas, premiered
globally on Netflix in December 2022.
The comedian has been on a roll in recent years, with a string of movie roles, producing gigs,
and arena shows that have shattered records. Notable highlights in his career include the
publication of his best-selling memoir Stay Hungry, a role in the Academy Award® Best Picture
Green Book, and a starring role alongside acting legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci
in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar®-nominated film The Irishman.
“When I first started doing comedy, I never thought about doing arenas,” Maniscalco said. “But
over 20-plus years of hitting the pavement and taking pictures with people, I developed a very
loyal fan base. A couple would come to a show, then they’d come back and bring their family or
their neighbors, and it just kinda swelled. Now you have limo buses pulling up to the shows—it’s
His success has earned him the praise of his peers, with Jerry Seinfeld calling him his “favorite
comedian,” and People dubbing him a “comedian’s comedian.” Maniscalco has also expanded into
podcasts, teaming up with fellow comedian Pete Correale for “The Pete and Sebastian Show,”
where the two get together once a week to hash out the highs and lows of life. And he recently
launched the hilarious new podcast “Daddy vs. Doctor” with his children’s pediatrician, Dr. Scott
Cohen, which finds the two talking weekly with parents from around the world and shedding light
on raising a family.
“I’m able to take on projects I’m passionate about, just do really quality stuff—I’m fortunate to
be in a position where I can really calculate what I’m doing and not spread myself too thin,” he
said. “The goal is not to be the next Denzel Washington, but to have some fun and be creative
in another realm.”
Maniscalco’s success is a testament to his perseverance and hustle, which started when he moved
to Los Angeles in 1998 and quickly became a favorite at the legendary Comedy Store. He’s been
a voice in “the vanguard of a live comedy revolution,” according to Pollstar, and has been named
Comedian of the Year by both Billboard and Pollstar. With his tireless work ethic and undeniable
talent, it’s safe to say that Maniscalco will continue to be a fixture in comedy and entertainment
for years to come.
Hailing from the great state of Vermont, Austen Earl is a feature film and television writer who co-wrote About My Father. Most recently, he scripted Our Daughter’s Honeymoon starring Vince Vaughn (also for Lionsgate). On the TV side, he is currently developing two comedies for ABC Network, one for Tim Allen and another with the comedian Charlie Berens. Prior to that, he co-created and ran “Happy Together” starring Damon Wayans Jr. and Amber Stevens-West for CBS. Previous staffing credits include “The Carmichael Show” (NBC), “The Millers” (CBS), “Up All Night” (NBC), and “The Santa Clauses” (Disney+). Outside of work, he enjoys tennis, skiing, and frantically straightening up his hair before the Zoom camera goes live.